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Bugs, Birds Improve Automation for Mason Company

Festo, a German automation company with plans to move its logistics center to Mason by the spring of 2016, is busy showing off its research and development to area students.

Mason and University of Cincinnati students got a look at Festo's Bionic Learning Network where UAVs emulate nature to improve automation.

Before applying the principles behind its SmartBird, Festo needed helium to move robotics through the air.


Smartbird has both propulsion and lift. An electric motor inside SmartBird  connects to wheels and rods. This is similar to steam locomotives. Motors are also inside the wings. They give forward motion to the bird. SmartBird can turn by moving its tail.

The next step in getting automated machines to be more nature-like was combining the tasks of a helicopter, glider and airplane and that resulted in a BionicOpter.


Festo's Andrea Ziomek says, "We started in the water and it was almost like an evolution with a fish fin which is now actually a product, the fin gripper, and then eventually we took it to the air."

Other examples of nature to machine:

  • Teaching the machine to better itself
  • Enabling machines to communicate with one another

Ziomek says the ultimate goal is sustainable automation and automation that is human friendly.
Luring Festo's logistics center from New York was a coup for Mason's Economic Director Michele Blair. She says, "I think as we learn more about Festo and the technology and innovation that comes out of their company, over 100 patents almost on an annual basis with their work, we are convinced this is a good match."

Festo is expected to be fully operational in Mason in the spring of 2016.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.